Many owners of mobile-storage businesses place their emphasis on great service and all the tasks involved in providing it, such as having clean, well-maintained containers, trucks to keep deliveries arriving on time, and friendly staff to provide service with a smile. But without customers, the rest of the effort is for nothing. Every business needs prospects, and marketing is a critical activity for attracting them.
However, for many small businesses, a dedicated marketing person just isn’t an option. Marketing is often one of many hats added to a busy owner’s or manager’s task list. So how do you cope? Here are some tips for the mobile-storage owner who needs to get maximum bang for his buck.
When someone calls or stops in your office, ask how he found you and record this information consistently. Ideally, you’ll use this info to identify sales levels generated by different sources, such as the Internet, Yellow Pages ads, word-of-mouth, and so on. With this data in hand, you can make better decisions on how to spend your marketing dollars.
Keep in mind that sometimes there’s a combination of sources at work. For instance, someone might receive your postcard in the mail, but contact you through your website. Categorizing your customers by type or activity (i.e., business user, student, person moving, person remodeling) will also help you better understand who’s buying from you. If possible, build this tracking into your company’s operations software.
Have a Quality Logo
Have a quality, recognizable logo from day one, designed by a professional. Marketing firms and agencies are obvious places to find good graphic artists, but you may also find talented people by contacting professors from your local technical college. Figure out who teaches graphic design and see if he does side work, or if he can refer you to a gifted student who wants to build his portfolio.
Ask your designer to provide digital copies of the logo formatted for use on the Web and in print, as well as a copy saved in Adobe Illustrator format. This way you’ll have a version for any use, no matter what size you need to reproduce it. Ask for black and white versions as well.
Have the same person design your letterhead and envelopes right away, too. It’s the little details in your communications that make a small company look big, such as consistent fonts, taglines, colors and artwork. Just make sure your graphic artist always gives you all the digital files for every job in case circumstances ever change.
Brand Your Mobile Containers
Your mobile containers are like traveling billboards. Be tasteful but memorable. Your containers should feature your company name, logo, phone number and website at a minimum. On that note, you want people to remember you offer a service, not that your product is an eyesore. Good-looking containers placed in unobtrusive areas and for only limited amounts of time will reduce the chance that community leaders will enact restrictions that limit your ability to do business.
Get the Best Price on Printed Materials
Shop around when you have any literature printed. Prices vary widely, so when printing anything in bulk, get two or three quotes. Give the small, unknown printers a try, as they likely have less overhead.
Have your graphic artist design your brochures for you as well. Not only will they look better than what the printing company’s in-house staff will do, but you’ll get a much more competitive quote on printing when the printer knows he has to earn your business. If the printer designs the brochure, he knows he has the print job, too, and the quote may not be as competitive as it could be.
Harness the Power of the Internet
Your Internet strategy should be more than simple a website. Discuss with your Web designer what word you think your customers might use to search for a business like yours. Then optimize the website to feature those words prominently and rank well on search engines.
Your website should include some way to collect leads as people request quotes. Even if you don’t set up a system for potential customers to reserve online, your goal is for them to leave contact information so you can follow up quickly and close the deal.
To drive traffic to the site, use pay-per-click programs from Google, or try Bing or Yahoo if you want to see how the underdogs perform. These ads can be targeted to display only in your geographic area, keeping costs down.
Another Google feature you should look at is “Places.” Visit Google.com/places and add your business to the directory and maps.
Set up pages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and update them regularly. Ask local organizations to include your link on their websites, especially if they have somewhat related content on the site. This helps to improve your Web ranking.
You can also search the Web to see how other operators are marketing their services. Or sign up at Self-Storage Talk (www.selfstoragetalk.com), the official online community of Inside Self-Storage, and ask members what other mobile-storage businesses are doing.
Networking and Target Marketing
Join the chamber of commerce and other local business associations. Make sure local realtors know who you are, and thank them when they refer customers to you. One way to track referrals is to give discount cards that have a small notation of their source on them.
Another avenue is target marketing. Identify what kind of customers you attract and learn where to find more of them. For example, building-permit records tell you who’s remodeling, or you might scan real estate listings to see who’s moving. Send these targeted groups a brochure or postcard.
Use Traditional Advertising Cautiously
Newspaper, radio and TV all offer great exposure, but can be cost-prohibitive for a small business. Do send press releases regarding events such as grand openings and major charitable donations to all the major news outlets in your community. Also send press releases when you hire or promote staff. You never know when your press release will be picked up by a news medium.
As for the Yellow Pages, younger customers are more likely to search the Internet rather than the phone book. But for now, having at least a small YP ad is probably still wise. Just consider that every dollar spent there will be unavailable for something else.
The next time you’re looking for new ways to market your mobile-storage business, consider the suggestions above. Your goal should be to regularly reach new customers while keeping marketing costs in check. Remember to track your leads so you know which marketing strategies are working for your business.
Steve Hajewski, marketing manager at Trachte Building Systems, previously served as Trachte’s product-development manager and helped develop Trachte’s portable-storage product line. He can be reached at 800.356.5824; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.trachte.com.
Portable Storage Containers [Self-Storage Talk]